Comedian JB Smoove began his career with minor roles in Pootie Tang and Mr. Deeds and as a writer for Saturday Night Live before taking on the career-defining Leon Black character during season six of Curb Your Enthusiasm. A profane, unruly loudmouth, Leon promptly became Larry David’s confrontational sidekick during misadventures, advising Larry on how to handle those who offend him (“You get in that ass, Larry”) and simply hanging around his house, even when the rest of the Black family moves out during season seven. While Smoove has recently starred on Fox’s 'Til Death and in the Tina Fey-Steve Carell comedy Date Night, he’ll appear as his Curb persona for “An Evening With Leon Black And Friends” Friday at Park West as part of the Just For Laughs festival. Before the show, The A.V. Club tracked down the comedian—who may have temporarily assumed his Curb character—to chat about why he thinks people live through their ass, how his show is a spiritual experience, and what Leon thinks of JB.
The A.V. Club: What hijinks do you have planned for your show?
JB Smoove: Man, we got ruckus, ruckus, and more ruckus. I’m going to bring ruckus. I’m going to pay an extra $25 for a bag of ruckus on the flight. 'Cause they charge you for the extra bag. I will eat the cost.
AVC: So you’ll drop the $25, but what are you going to do at the show?
JBS: Man, I’m just bringing the ruckus, baby. I’m gonna bring it how I do it. We’ve got a bunch of comic performers. We’ve got me coming in as Leon—black man doing his damn thing. That’s what it’s all going to be about. Me and three or four of the comics. Sometimes comedy is about taking. You show up, you do a damn show, you get money, and you leave. Sometimes it’s about taking. A lot of comedians are selfish. They’re selfish bastards. It’s all about them performing and getting money. My comedy show is more about me leaving something with you. Sure, it’s about the money. I’ve got bills to pay. The bottom line is I believe in leaving the people with something. Do you watch Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil on TV?
AVC: I've seen them.
JBS: Dr. Oz gets a paycheck, but you best believe that guy is going to leave you with something. You’ve got problems or guilt or there’s something wrong with you, you’re going to solve that problem that day. It’s a simple “I believe.” I’m rooting for the people and my fans. I need to leave them with something. I’m not going to cure diabetes or cancer. I’m not going to win the Nobel Peace Prize. I’ll tell you one thing: They’re going to leave a better person.
AVC: What are you going to leave them with?
JBS: Knowledge, baby, knowledge. I’m going to put Band-Aids on wounds. If someone shoots a bullet in your ass, you don’t leave the bullets in your ass, do you?
AVC: No, you take those out.
JBS: You take that bullet out your ass. They need to be awakened. A lot of people are blinded by the bullshit that’s going on in your life. You need someone to focus on the bullshit you’re going through and point you in the right direction. These are grown-ass people, but everyone needs a little something.
AVC: In this metaphor, are you the one shooting the person in the ass, or are you the one taking the bullet out?
JBS: I’m the one who is taking the bullet out of your ass. If that bullet stays in your ass, guess what? It’s just going to annoy you. You can’t sit down right. Do you know what side saddle is? That means you sit cock-eyed. You can’t use both of your butt cheeks. You got two halves of your ass. There’s a crease in the middle of your ass. If I got shot in the right butt check, guess what? You can’t sit on that side of your ass. You got to use one half of your buttocks to sit on. You gotta use half of the chair. Why should you live like that? You’re living half your life. Don’t let anyone tell you different. You live through your ass.
AVC: What do you mean by that?
JBS: People think that your heart runs the body. Your ass runs the body. When people get angry at you they say, “I wanna kick your ass.” They never say, “I wanna kick your heart.” Have you heard that? I’m going to kick your ass. The ass runs the body. That’s why I’m always saying you’ve got to get in people’s ass when shit is not right. You have to get in that ass. It’s mandatory that you get in that ass. You got to get people in the right direction.
For the show, I’m bringing three or maybe four other comics and we’re just going to hit y’all in the head with shit. But, see, they’re going to have their own way of hitting you in the head with their knowledge and laughter and shit. Let me tell you about comedy, man. A lot of comedians go on stage very satisfied with the “ha-ha-ha’s” and the “he-he-he’s.” The chuckles and shit. Some comedians are very satisfied with getting the fucking chuckles. I am not a chuckle person. I’m not satisfied with fucking chuckles. My main purpose when I go on that stage is to make you shit on yourself. I have to satisfy my audience. I want you to piss on yourself and shit on yourself. I want to bust guts. I want to give you diarrhea. I want to make you shit on yourself from laughter.
AVC: Are these metaphors, or do you mean literally?
JBS: That’s a metaphor for laughter. Have you ever seen Scanners, when the dude’s head explodes and shit? That’s what I’m trying to do to your bowels. I’m focusing on the audience. Sometimes I’ll stare at the same person. I’m making the dude who’s not laughing enough shit on himself.
AVC: Are you happy if just one person's bowels explode?
JBS: You have to be happy. You know why? Because you have touched somebody. You have laid hands on somebody’s ass—not physically laid hands on them, but you have laid your knowledge on them. Have you ever seen the evangelists on TV? They lay hands on you and try to touch you. That’s what comedy is. We aren’t physically touching you, but we’re laying our hands on you. The hand is a metaphor. We lay our hands on your ass. We try to make you go home with something. We don’t have chapters and verses and stuff we can pull from like the Bible.
AVC: So it’s a spiritual experience for the audience?
JBS: You’re damn right it is. Have you ever heard of Jimi Hendrix? Jimi Hendrix would do that shit on guitar.
AVC: The same thing that you’re doing, he was doing with the guitar?
JBS: The microphone is a guitar. And our lips and our vocals are playing through the fucking guitar, which is a microphone. What I’m trying to say is—have you ever heard of the Jimi Hendrix Experience? Think of this show as the Leon Black Experience.
AVC: Why didn’t you call it that?
JBS: 'Cause Jimi already did it!
AVC: You’re still allowed to call it that.
JBS: Maybe I will call it the Leon Black Experience. Fuck it. Let’s do that.
AVC: “An Evening With Leon Black” sounds intimate and subdued.
JBS: Let’s change this shit, man. You’re goddamn right. It’s too fucking soft. I’m not fucking Kenny G. I’m not playing a fucking trumpet or shit, or a fucking flute. What the fuck is that? Who made that shit up?
AVC: Who came up with the title for the show?
JBS: I have no idea. I would have called it Leon Black: That’s How I Do This. Or Leon Black Introduces Leon Black.
AVC: You seem to act a lot like your Leon Black character.
JBS: This is Leon. Right now I’m fucking Leon. You know how hard it is to get on the airplane with the wrong fucking name? I’m going to have to get additional screening.
AVC: You could drive.
JBS: Well, what if I drive and I get pulled over? And I’m Leon, I don’t have no Leon fucking driver’s license. I don’t have Leon’s shit. What am I going to do, pull out a fucking copy of Curb Season 6 DVD?
AVC: Does Leon drive fast?
JBS: Leon drives very fucking fast. Leon drives 100 miles per hour everywhere. He drives 100 miles an hour between red lights, he don’t give a fuck. You know what I’m saying? You ever been to Cirque Du Soleil?
AVC: Never been.
JBS: Man, you got to go see Cirque Du Soleil. That’s the idea: The Leon circus is coming to town. You go see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s a lot of different action going on, there’s a whole lot of shit going on at the same time too. What you feel will help you, that is what you’ll take home with you. You don’t go home and tell people you went to the circus and tell them every little inch of it. You tell them what the fuck you like about the circus. Contortionists and shit like that. You know what a contortionist is? He’s fucking bending his fucking body all over the place. That’s what I’m going to fucking tell people tomorrow at work. You want your lady to be a contortionist. What man wouldn’t want a lady who’s a contortionist? You know what monkey bars are?
AVC: The beams you hang on at the playground.
JBS: Could you imagine you having sex on the fucking playground on the monkey bars with a lady contortionist? It’s got to be incredible.
AVC: Leon, what do you think about JB?
JBS: He’s a nice guy. Plays right, honest, good friend. Good comic, good friend. A guy who’s proud to be on this journey through this industry. And he’s enjoying the ride. He’s a guy who’s got a little bit of everything. Mr. Deeds, Pootie Tang, 'Til Death on Fox. The Curb Your Enthusiasm thing came through JB, but JB passed the baton [to Leon]. I’m not going to hold a fucking stick in my hand all day.
AVC: The baton has been passed?
JBS: It’s not a physical baton, I don’t have a fucking baton—it’s a baton of life. JB passed the baton to Leon, so Leon can roll with Curb.
AVC: So everything that JB does later in his career is an offshoot of Leon Black?
JBS: Damn right. Without JB, there would be no Leon. If Leon chooses to stay Leon forever, there’s no fucking JB.
AVC: What are JB’s newest projects?
JBS: JB has a few more movies coming out. He just finished a movie with Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis called Hall Pass. There’s a few TV shows, ideas, and movies in the works right now. In other words, JB’s star is rising, and JB believes he has to strike while the iron is hot.
AVC: What about the sitcom you’re working on with Larry Charles?
JBS: That was something I had to put aside. I wanted to focus more on my film career. JB’s a big fan of movies. He loves movies and the big screen. It’s always cool to see stuff on the big screen, and for someone to write about you. Something cool about seeing shit in the paper. Love it. Whether it’s good shit or bad. Police blog or entertainment news, it’s just good to see your name in print. Some guy right now is in prison and his name’s in the police blog he’s like, “Man, I made the fucking paper.” Some people like to see their name in print.
AVC: Why is that?
JBS: I have no idea. Ladies love that shit. Ladies love for guys to write them a fucking letter. It doesn’t matter if you’re with them for years. They love to see you write about them.
AVC: So you like the buzz from the movies?
JBS: Buzz, you’ll be seen by the masses. Your fucking face is so big on the movie screen. Who would not want to see their face that fucking big? You have Dolby sound. When you’re in a theater, your voice, your fucking presence is huge. Your sound is huge. Your face is huge. You feel that shit. You’re feeling words and shit.